Israel Sells Advanced SPYDER Defense System to UAE, Deepening Ties

In a sign that Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are deepening cooperation, Tel Aviv is selling the Gulf Arab Emirate its advanced missile defense system. Abu Dhabi is buying the Surface-to-air Python and Derby (SPYDER) air defense system from Israel, Reuters has reported, citing sources.

UAE is the first Middle East Islamic nation to buy the strategic weapon from Israel.

The Spyder defense system is manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. This short-to-medium range air defense system is capable of using Python-5 and Derby missiles that have ranges of 20 and 50km. Israel has already sold this advanced weapon system to countries including India, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Vietnam and the Czech Republic.

SPYDER defense system
SPYDER defense system Wikimedia Commons

Strategic Importance

The Spyder defense system detects aircraft from a range of 70 to 110 kilometers. It has been a proven resource in identifying and neutralizing drones, cruise missiles, and aircraft. for the UAE, this system is of great strategic importance. The country has the US-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot systems but the strikes by the Houthi rebels were at altitudes too low for them to intercept. The Spyder systems from Israel address this crisis. At the moment there is no information on how many Spyder systems are going to be bought by the UAE.

Normalization of Ties

The oil rich gulf emirate has been warming up to the Jewish state over the years. In 2020, the two countries signed the historic normalization deal under the auspices of the Donald Trump administration.

Former US President Donald Trump announced the historic deal in August 2020. "President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE spoke today and agreed to full normalization of relations between Israel and UAE," the statement issued by Trump said.

"After 49 years, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalise their diplomatic relations -- This is a truly historic moment," Trump said.

Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi
Houthi rebels fired two ballistic missiles over Abu Dhabi that were intercepted Twitter

Houthi Rebel Threat

UAE, which is part of the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, has been a victim of drone and missile attacks in recent years. the latest deal with Israel, which will not go down well in the broader Islamic world, probably takes into account the emirate's emerging security threats in the region.

On the other hand, fostering ties with the UAE will help Israel build a significant counterweight against its arch enemy in the region, Iran. Tehran sees the growing ties of the Muslim-majority nations with Israel extremely suspiciously.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the move by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to normalize ties with Israel was an act of "betrayal". "The UAE betrayed the Islamic world, Arab nations and the regional countries, as well as the cause of Palestine," Xinhua news agency quoted Khamenei as saying. "They (the UAE officials) opened the region to the Zionists (Israelis) and put the cause of Palestine, which is a usurpation of a country, into oblivion," Khamenei said.

While Bahrain also followed in the footsteps of the UAE and normalized ties with Israel, there have been speculations that five more countries -- Oman, Sudan, Comoros, Djibouti and Mauritania --- are also likely to normalize relations with Israel.